Selmer Saxophones – Saxophone Brands

Selmer makes many saxophones and their line once included the legendary Mark VI. Their recent models have returned to design ideas that the Mark VI had.

Company: Selmer

Founding Date: Early 1900s


Selmer was founded in the early 1900s by Henri and Alexandre Selmer. In its early days, they focused on clarinets, as both of its founders were clarinet players. Although Henri and Alexandre began by building reeds and mouthpieces for clarinets, the company would eventually grow to include a wide range of woodwind instruments, including the saxophone.

Selmer’s most successful saxophone, the Mark VI was introduced in 1954. The saxophone was made in France, and originally imported to the United States in parts to avoid import tariffs. The Mark VI was produced up until the end of 1973 when it was replaced by the Mark VII- supposed to be an “improvement” but not so much in reality. Selmer’s newest professional horns, the Reference 54 and the Reference 36, were introduced in 2005. These models are based on 1954’s Mark VI model and 1936’s Balanced Action model.

Who Plays the Brand:

Selmer is one of the big four saxophone manufacturers and has a large stable of artists who prefer the brand. A short list of these artist includes Phil Woods, Paul Desmond, Bob Berg, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, John Coltrane, and Lee Konitz. Owing to the popularity and reputation of the Mark VI horn, this list is only a snippet of the large body of artists that proudly use a Selmer for their performances.

What They Are Known For:

Although the Selmer name has produced successful models for as long as they have been producing saxophones, the Mark VI is not only the first model players think of when they think ‘Selmer’, it’s the first model many players think of when they think ‘saxophone’.

The horn is truly legendary among jazz musicians, and is played by some of the best in the business.

Perhaps because the Mark VI set such a high standard, Selmer took a wrong turn with the introduction of the Mark VII which most saxophone players agree was a step backwards. The Reference 54 and Reference 36, however, are gaining a very decent reputation.

Interesting Stories About Them:

A recent reviewer at Musicians Friend had very kinds words to say about the new Reference model saxophones and how favorably they compare to the horns they seek to recreate:

“Playing the Reference 54 tenor was an illuminating experience. I knew at once I had an extraordinary instrument in my hands. It had the richness of tone, the warmth, and the punch and projection I loved in my Mark VI, but was a little brighter.

finally put down the Reference 54 and picked up the Reference 36. It had the same ergonomic key feel as the 54 but its own tonal coloring. It is based on the Balanced Action model Selmer introduced in 1936 and has that instrument’s rich open sound. Like the 54, it is an extraordinary instrument. If I had to choose between the two, I’d have a hard time making up my mind.”

Price Ranges:

Sopranos range from $ 895 for a student model to $ 5,499 for a professional model.

Altos range from $ 1,602 for a student model to $ 5,229 for a professional model.

Tenors range from $ 2,160 for a student model to $ 6,199 for a professional model.

Baritones range from $ 4,479 to $ 9.329 for a professional model.

(Prices current in June 2009)

-Neal Battaglia

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